"Didn't you love him?" asked the girl, staring. "Wouldn't you have helped him?"
"I can't tell," answered Joan. "I should have meant to. Many men and women have loved, and have meant to help each other all their lives; and with the years have drifted asunder; coming even to be against one another. We change and our thoughts change; slight differences of temperament grow into barriers between us; unguessed antagonisms widen into gulfs. Accidents come into our lives. A friend was telling me the other day of a woman who practically proposed to and married a musical genius, purely and solely to be of use to him. She earned quite a big income, drawing fashions; and her idea was to relieve him of the necessity of doing pot- boilers for a living, so that he might devote his whole time to his real work. And a few weeks after they were married she ran the point of a lead pencil through her eye and it set up inflammation of her brain. And now all the poor fellow has to think of is how to make enough to pay for her keep at a private lunatic asylum. I don't mean to be flippant. It's the very absurdity of it all that makes the mystery of life--that renders it so hopeless for us to attempt to find our way through it by our own judgment. It is like the ants making all their clever, laborious plans, knowing nothing of chickens and the gardener's spade. That is why we have to cling to the life we can order for ourselves--the life within us. Truth, Justice, Pity. They are the strong things, the eternal things, the things we've got to sacrifice ourselves for--serve with our bodies and our souls.
"Don't think me a prig," she pleaded. "I'm talking as if I knew all about it. I don't really. I grope in the dark; and now and then--at least so it seems to me--I catch a glint of light. We are powerless in ourselves. It is only God working through us that enables us to be of any use. All we can do is to keep ourselves kind and clean and free from self, waiting for Him to come to us."
The girl rose. "I must be getting back," she said. "Dad will be wondering where I've got to."
She paused with the door in her hand, and a faint smile played round the thin red lips.
"Tell me," she said. "What is God?"
"A Labourer, together with man, according to Saint Paul," Joan answered.
The girl turned and went. Joan watched her as she descended the great staircase. She moved with a curious, gliding motion, pausing at times for the people to make way for her.